Canada bill for rail-shipper pacts seen by fall

Thu May 3, 2012 1:46pm EDT
 
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(Reuters) - Canada's Transport Minister Denis Lebel said on Thursday the government may not introduce legislation designed to give shippers more clout with the country's two big railways until autumn.

"It's very difficult to have a timeline before the summer... If it's in the fall, it will be in the fall," Lebel said, speaking to reporters by conference call from Germany.

Grain companies and farmers have long complained about lacking clout to deal with the two railways - Canadian National Railway Co and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd - to ensure adequate service.

Those groups as well as auto and steel companies, among other shippers, are eager to establish a process that would let them fall back on basic service agreements when direct negotiations with railways fail.

Such service level agreements could detail the obligations of each party, performance standards and a dispute-resolution process, possibly with penalties against railways for poor service.

Lebel said he is awaiting a final report from a facilitator who was appointed by the Conservative government last autumn to lead a six-month process aiming to improve rail service.

The report is expected to help the government draft a law setting out a template for service level agreements.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer in Ottawa; writing by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Peter Galloway)

 
Canada's Transport Minister Denis Lebel speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie